Every day more businesses start a social media campaign. Facebook and Twitter are the standards, with some visually-oriented companies branching out into Pinterest and Instagram. But is social media marketing really worth the effort for small businesses?
Where the Leads Are
Small business owners are aware that more and more Americans check their Facebook and Twitter accounts several times a day, using their mobile devices to keep in touch with their social networks. It makes sense that companies want to be where their potential customers are, using social media to pursue and hopefully convert leads. And real estate agents in particular, are an example of the kind of small business that could really make use of social media. Real estate businesses are built on the fact that customers want to hire agents that they trust and social media channels like Facebook can be a good tool for real estate agents to build relationships with clients or followers that they hope will become clients in the future.
Social Media Takes Time
If you're a real estate agent, you're used to multi-tasking and having many demands on your time. Let's take the case of a hypothetical "typical" agent, Jane Smith. Jane is one of the many real estate agents who run their business single-handedly. She's fully committed to helping her clients, and that often means long hours. If a client wants to tour a house in the evening after work or needs Jane to come over and take pictures of their home for an online listing on the weekend, she's happy to accommodate them. And in addition to all her other tasks, Jane takes a proactive approach to social media. She tweets regularly, she takes pictures of landmarks and beautiful views in her neighborhood to upload on Instagram, and she shares personal stories on Facebook about successful deals and clients she's helped. She also checks the websites of local and regional news sources for stories that her social media followers might find interesting, and spends time each day networking with colleagues, local businesses and potential clients on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Jane is putting a lot of effort into social media – but is it paying off?
Is Social Media Worth While for a Small Business?
A recent study of small businesses using social media to promote themselves had some interesting data. The survey by Manta found that while some small companies see some or a marked increase in business as a result of social media engagement, about 61% of small businesses don't see any return on their social media activity. Still, almost 50% of small businesses surveyed said that they had increased the time spent on social media. Surprisingly, 18% of respondents said that Facebook was the hardest social media platform to maintain. One reason for the failure of social media outreach may be that small businesses aren't running very skillful campaigns. According to Pat Springer, the CEO of Manta, businesses should be more proactive in using resources like online forums and social media to connect with each other for advice.
Adjusting Social Media Strategy
After reading the study about whether social media works well for small businesses, Jane decides it’s time to adjust her tactics. She's focusing on quality rather than quantity when it comes to her social media updates, and she is continually assessing what kind of content will provoke the most response from her users. She ran a Facebook contest this week that produced a lot of engagement, and—more importantly—two very promising leads, so she'll definitely be holding more contests in the future. Jane is now limiting the amount of time she spends on social media to 5 hours a week, which she considers a reasonable amount of time to spend for the number of new leads she's liable to gain. And Jane is setting aside an hour each week to connect on other networking sites, after realizing that making BizPals status updates or commenting on LinkedIn discussions are quick and easy ways to get online exposure and be seen by more of her professional network than might be the case on Facebook.
Are you tweaking your own social media strategy? Don't forget to post BizPals updates and ask your past customers for reviews that will enhance your profile and let you stand out from the crowd of real estate agents online!